Show your councillor that you support backyard chickens before the next council meeting on January 25.
By Jeremy Compton
Published January 22, 2012
Urban chickens. Backyard chickens. Whichever term you like the most, both mean the same: a chicken (or chickens) kept at a residential property within the city limits.
Citizens of Hamilton are actively petitioning the recent ruling on urban chickens that occurred down at City Hall.
The original plan in Hamilton was that staff would conduct research and study regarding keeping urban chickens, that councillors would review it so that an educated decision could be made.
On January 12, this changed. The Planning Committee decided they would not wait for a staff report and would look into the issue no further. This came to a surprise to many councillors and citizens alike.
This is a democratic farce, shutting it down without giving it a fair chance to even be heard.
To some people, backyard chickens are a food source. To others, it's the idea of being self-sufficient and not being dependent on anyone else. They can be a learning tool for children, who have no real understanding of where our food comes from (like my daughter, who still thinks eggs come from the "fridge" and the "store").
Whatever people's reasons are, there are some very good ones to want to keep backyard chickens.
I personally like the idea of raising my own food and being self-sufficient. Having chickens is as important as my garden in my back yard. I have planted vegetables for my family for many years, growing lots of things, and shared them with family and neighbours.
I would love to be able to do the same with eggs I can get from backyard chickens, that would care for with my family.
Opponents to the idea keep throwing the same arguments into the ring. The majors I keep hearing are:
Yes, there is some validity to these arguments, but I really don't think such things should prevent the city from allowing chickens in our borders, as most of these are not as big an issue. I don't want to spend too much time on these issues, as they will be addressed over and over again; however I will spend a moment or two.
1. Do chickens smell? Yes, but mostly because of coops not being cleaned regularly. If you don't clean out your feline's litter box, you get the same effect. It can attract flies and carry a pungent odour. This is definitely not a good thing, but still, owning a cat is not banned.
2. Do chickens carry bacteria and disease? Yes, they can. We have been told by the city's Public Health department that the risk of these types of things is no different than with a cat or a dog. Should we ban cats and dogs? I should hope not.
3. Can chickens attract vermin? Most issues with rodents are due to feed being improperly stored. Feed comes in a sack, which can be chewed. By storing feed in metal containers (not wood or plastic), most rodent issues cease. This also cuts down on disease, as chickens are not consuming feed contaminated with rodent feces.
Finally, proper enclosures for hens also ensures that other predators can't cause an issue. This is much like dealing with storing a bag of garbage outside at night. If you don't do it correctly, raccoons soon set in.
The positives of owning chickens far outweigh the negatives. Producing my own food, being able to share with my neighbours and bring the community together, and just the plain old fact that backyard chickens provide better tasting, healthier eggs, are some of many reasons to support urban chickens.
There are studies that show chickens who are raise in pasture (much like a backyard chicken) may contain 4 to 6 times more Vitamin D, less cholesterol, less saturated fat, and double the omega-3 fatty acids, along with many other things. (See www.motherearthnews.com/eggs.aspx for more details.)
However, I also believe that we should place appropriate restrictions chickens in our city. Some of the things I would be sure to include would be:
With proper rules and regulations, it could be a wonderful thing to keep hens in the city. I don't believe there will be many issues that would involve any required intervention by Animal Control. Even if such issues arise, they would be few and far between.
I believe citizens in our city can weigh the positives and negatives and make a wise decision for themselves. Most people would more than likely not want to keep a chicken, as there is a lot of work involved. They would rather by eggs at the grocery store. For those of us willing, we should be allowed.
Hamilton is a great city, with a big focus on its people. I really think that if we allow the keeping of hens in our city, that many lives will be truly enriched.
On January 25 at 5:00 PM, council will be meeting at City Hall, and a group of supporters of urban chickens will be present. I really encourage anyone who wants to help make an impact, to please come and show your support.
As well, supporters can help in a huge way by sending a letter or email to their city councillor, and copying the city clerk, so the letter may become part of the official record. This may seem like a small and easy thing to do, but it goes a long way.
Sign the petition online at (URL shortened for ease of access): http://chn.ge/x4P6hB
Join the Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/groups/235255973215210/
We also have buttons available to wear to show support.